It’s been a rough road forÂ The Last Man on EarthÂ from “Alive in Tuscon” to “Screw the Moon,” as the show’s shifted between contemplative, dark comedy about loneliness toÂ Phil Miller’s a Jerk,Â a trite suburban comedy where a bunch of great women put up with two increasingly crappy guys. “Screw The Moon” embodies all of those traits, good and bad, an episode that works backward as it moves forward, essentially resetting itself to the end of the pilot by the end of the finale – and then leaving the audience with a heck of a doozy to sit on heading into Season 2.
Whether “Screw the Moon” connects or not depends on how those final scenes are read. Everything leading up to Carol meeting Tandy/Phil out in the desert is domino effect for what came before, a big, angry reset button for the show. Todd and Tandy’s murder plan falls apart quickly when Todd realizes Tandy wanted to kill him at one point – and feeling betrayed, announces his plan to the whole crew, which leads New Phil to kidnap him, and drop him out in the middle of the desert with a few supplies. All of this is designed to circle back to the pilot, where Phil desperately seeks out human connection, losing his will to live without other people around, a snowballing effect that turns into an avalanche once New Phil loses his patience.
And as he lays there, ready to die – and this time, the power of death out of his hands – he sees Carol. Carol, the woman he’s wanted and hated for the whole season, offering him a second chance. “I can’t be with a man who’d leave someone in the woods; I’d rather be with someone who didn’t have the heart to do it” she tells Phil, a wonderful turn of phrase for the show’s best character. Phil may not be aÂ goodÂ human being like he thinks he is, but there’s still potential for him – or at least, she thinks so. I’m not so sure – and Will Forte’s performance as Phil tries to reconcile the fact Carol came to save him (with his sports ball friends in tow; she’s the best!) is convincing, nonetheless, even if it feels like the show’s simply pushing backwards to retread the same material between the two next season.
The problem with “Screw the Moon” – even though it’s a fantastic episode that very much deals with much of my complaints through the uneven first season – is that it asks the audience to have hope for Phil, without really presenting an argument as to why, save for the haunting song he (actually) wrote Carol. Should one song make up for a season full of a man openly chasing opportunities for casual sex, and willing to consider murdering people to attain that goal? Season 2 is an opportunity to present this, of course, but I wish “Screw the Moon” would’ve suggested some sort of inkling towards this; Phil trying to return to the nightly camp fire doesn’t quite get me there. Again, it’s Carol who catalyzes the most important moments of the show, which betray the lead character a bit: if we can’t observe his growth as a human being in some measurable way, can we truly believe he’s experienced a moment of growth?
Either way, I’m still intrigued to see whereÂ The Last Man on EarthÂ goes in its second season – and the cameo of Jason Sudeikis as Phil’s brother trapped in space is really only an added bonus to that. With Carol and Phil driving off into the sunset,Â The Last Man on EarthÂ can either drive back to Tuscon in Season 2, or it can move on to something new and exciting, the latter of which appears to be where the show is heading (why give us the Todd/Melissa reconciliation otherwise?), and which unlocks an unlimited amount of potential for the show. It’s potential that can only be reached if the show retools its presentation of its main character, but the opportunities are endless for The Last Man on EarthÂ in 2016, thanks to the final five minutes of “Screw the Moon,” ending the show’sÂ tumultuous freshman season on a high note.
[Photo via FOX]